In the National Year of Millets, the Centre proposes to adopt a mission-mode approach to promote the nutrient-rich cereals, including sorghum, ragi and foxtail millets.

Official sources said a Millet Mission is being proposed with an outlay of ₹800 crore for the next two years to boost production of these cereals, which are naturally rich with protein and nutrients such as iron, calcium and zinc, and also consume less water and inputs, thus being ecologically sustainable.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to make an announcement in the forthcoming Budget on the provision for the Millet Mission, under the National Food Security Mission.

Nutrition security

The proposed mission, apart from aiming to boost supplies of these nutri-cereals, is expected to help address the issue of nutrition security. It will be implemented in at least 16 of the 21 States that grow millets.

Besides supporting farmers with technical inputs, including seeds, the mission will focus on farm-gate processing, aggregation, and provide linkages to the value addition industry and markets.

Also, seed hubs are being planned in major millet growing States and a referral lab is being set up at the Hyderabad-based Indian Institute of Millets Research to give a fresh impetus to R&D activities. On the demand side, the proposed mission will focus on creating consumer awareness.

India, which grows over half-a-dozen varieties of millets, produces around 20 million tonnes of these nutri-cereals, which make up about 7 per cent of the country’s overall foodgrain output of around 275 mt.

Pearl millet (bajra, over 9 mt) and sorghum (jowar, over 6 mt) account for a major chunk of the millet output, followed by finger millet (ragi, at over 2 mt).

The minor millets such as foxtail, kodo and proso millet account for less than a million tonnes.

Millets in mid-day meal

Speaking on the national roadmap for millets at the International Trade Fair on organics and millets in Bengaluru last week-end, Agriculture Secretary SK Pattanayak said the NITI Aayog has recommended including millets in the public distribution system.

Making a pitch for inclusion of millets into the mid-day meal schemes in schools, especially in aanganwadis, where they can help tackle malnutrition, Pattanayak also called upon growers to place millets on the supermarket shelves of the US.

In fact, Akshaya Patra, the mid-day meal implementing agency in Karnataka, has recently launched a pilot with a millet-based diet in Bengaluru and has started distributing a millet-based snack to schoolchildren in Telangana.